First junior world champions decided in slopestyle
Snow sports history was made today with the crowning of the first ever snowboard slopestyle junior world champions. Staale Sandbech (17) of Norway and Enni Rukajarvi (20) of Finland both astounded judges with their level of riding, indicating the future of snowboarding is very strong indeed.
An early morning blizzard cleared to provide perfect conditions at Snow Park NZ for this historic event. The course consisted of a down rail to 25ft flat box or rail followed by three kickers ranging in size from 15ft to 70 ft, ending in a multi-feature of an up box with gap off, snow rainbow and tank bonk.
New Zealand's Ben Comber (20) of Christchurch scored the highest qualifying run of the day which included a gravity defying switch backside 9 off the 70ft kicker setting him in good stead as the only Kiwi going into the men's finals. He continued his lead into the first run of the finals but by the second run everything changed. Sandbech was saving his best ‘til last and took out the world championship with a decisive second run which started with a front board on followed by a frontside 5 into a cab 9, a back 10 finishing with a 270 out on the last box. Ville Paumola (19) of Finland took out second place and Seppe Smits (19) of Belgium rounded out the podium. Comber eventually finished the day in fifth.
Rukajarvi dominated the women's heats with comfortable lead of over four points ahead of her nearest rival, Slovenian Urska Pribosic (20). Rukajarvi continued to dominate in the finals with her second run. After the rail, a frontside 3 followed by a backside 5, gap 5 and stalefish secured her the world championship ahead of Slovenia's Urska Pribosic and 15-year-old Samm Denena from Canada. Rebecca Torr (20) of Wanaka was the only New Zealander to make it into the women's finals and she finished in fourth.
Dean Gosper, FIS Council member, said it was a great start to the event. "It's fantastic to see great conditions for the athletes although the wind is a bit challenging," he said. "But it's a spectacular setting and the event gives athletes an opportunity to perform at their best, helped by an amazing attention to detail by the organisers. Clearly the riding is at an elite level as it should be in a world championship and I have no doubt the competition will continue to be very fierce throughout the week."
It wasn't the event's youngest competitor, Luis Eckert's day. The young German only celebrated his fourteenth birthday last week. His amplitude on the kickers was impressive but he didn't manage to stomp the landings, denying him a place in the finals. However, he is also competing in halfpipe and big air later in the week.